Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published April 16, 2004

Meeting the Press


As President Bush began his press conference last night my wife and I were leaving Duluth ’s Red Lobster. The driver of a Bush/Cheney bumper stickered van was sitting in his vehicle listening in on his car radio. Next to his Bush bumper sticker was another sticker which read, “Islam is a religion of peace my ass!” We turned on our radio to find out about the President’s Iraq exit strategy. Vietnam redux?


A lot of pundits have taken pains lately to explain that Vietnam and Iraq are not analogous wars. I agree. For instance our year-old war against Islamic terrorism has only had casualties in the thousands. In Vietnam , by contrast, the Christian nations of France and the United States fought a twenty-year long war that saw a million deaths, most of them Vietnamese! Of course, back then you never saw hippies driving love bugs with “Prince of Peace my Ass!” bumper stickers.


I wish this fellow had paid more attention to George Bush immediately after 9/11. One of the things that most impressed me about Bush was his call not to judge Islam by the standards of assassins and terrorists. He did his utmost to make sure that Americans did not take vengeance on the American Islamic community. I’m sure that the President would recoil, as I did, when I read the van driver’s first amendment protected wisecrack.


What’s more, I believe the President genuinely wants to give the Islamic world an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of democracy. This would be America at its best and not unlike the generosity of the Marshall Plan after World War II. Where else in history has one nation defeated its attackers and then dug deep into its pockets to rehabilitate them?


Of course, Bush sold the war in part by saying that Iraq ’s oil would pay for it. That’s just one of a dozen awkward aspects of the war that the President has to explain. We were also told that Hussein was in league with bin Ladin; that the war was supposed to be a cakewalk; that we didn’t want the UN interfering; that Iraqi’s would be grateful for their rescue and that there were WMD’s to find.


The Bush Administration’s unwillingness to address these and other difficult questions may help to explain Bush’s reluctance to hold press conferences. By this point in his Presidency JFK was dead but he had already given 64 press conferences. In fact, no president in my lifetime has been so reluctant to face the press, not even Richard Nixon, who hated the press and whose hate was reciprocated. George Bush has only held eight or nine press conferences. This one was only Bush’s second press conference since our invasion of Iraq one year ago.


So after a year of avoiding the press how well did the President do? It was no fireside chat let me tell you. Bush stuck to the familiar lines we’ve heard him say many times before. In some cases he simply borrowed the words of his advisors like when he quoted Condoleeza Rice’s cliché about how she “would have moved heaven and earth” to stop 9/11 had only she been forewarned. Bush couldn’t muster the same authority that he’d mastered post 9/11.  He stumbled, lost track of what he was saying, interjected peculiar asides, and searched his mind distractedly trying to recall the “on message” phrases his handlers had given him in advance so that he wouldn’t say anything unscripted.


George Bush has gambled his Presidency on Iraq . This was a remarkable gamble for a man whose own father lost reelection despite success in Iraq .


Where father Bush pulled together a huge coalition his son incurred world-wide rancor. The son charged in where the father refused to tread. Today American soldiers are inside Iraq up to their arm pits in alligators. Having staked America ’s reputation on turning Iraq into a democracy he has managed to make America a target for a mushrooming terrorist industry.


Whoever our next President is I hope he doesn’t renege on the promises made to the people of Iraq . I was just as ashamed of our departure from Vietnam as I was our conduct of the war. I'd hate to see that sorry spectacle repeated.


I suspect our next president will hold a lot more press conferences. If there are more press conferences I'm sure the fellow in the van will be very disappointed.


Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com